Cayetano proposes roundtable hearings to inform public about COVID-19, gov't measures

Published March 19, 2020, 3:35 PM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Ben Rosario

Notwithstanding the congressional break and the enhanced community quarantine, members of the House of Representatives will continue working by helping government make the public well-informed about the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano (Alan Peter Cayetano / Facebook page/ MANILA BULLETIN)
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano (Alan Peter Cayetano / Facebook page/ MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

In a press conference on Monday, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said the Lower House will help “through communications.”

“We will be holding hearings but not the usual hearings that you watch. It will be more roundtable style, we will only have four, at most five members of Congress present, we will only have one department at a time, and we will start with the Department of Health,” he said.

According to Cayetano, strict safety and anti-infection protocols will be observed during hearings.

He said an invited Cabinet secretary “will not bring more than five people and I will ask the media to have the same arrangement, so that in a hearing room that usually fits 150 to 200 people, we will not have more the 30 to 50 people.”

The House official added that aside from following government protocols, such a setup would allow resource persons like the health secretary to effectively communicate what he wants to tell the public about COVID-19 and the enhanced community quarantine.

Two employees of the Lower House have reportedly been infected with COVID-19. One of them, a 41-year-old male, has died.

Two close relatives of the deceased employee also work in the Lower House. Both are connected with the Committee Affairs Department, the office in charge of conducting committee hearings.

A director of the Department of Health who attended a congressional hearing on COVID-19 has tested positive for the disease.

Cayetano’s proposed congressional hearings will involve members of Congress, but they will merely be allowed to send their questions to committee chairmen, who in turn, will communicate the queries to Duque or other officials invited to the hearing.

Cayetano said he and other House leaders would meet with administration officials and representatives of the private sector to discuss economic stimulus measures aimed at aiding affected workers and businesses.

“There are so many proposals being discussed on television and in the media. So we will be meeting with executive officials and the private sector to determine which of these are feasible,” he said.(Ben R. Rosario)